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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Allen Curnow

There is less polemic in Curnow, more meditation, and that of a stronger intellectual fibre. There is satire in some early poems, but his work leaves current perplexities for their historical origins and spiritual essence. Curnow's most important books are Sailing or Drowning (1943), At Dead Low Water (1949), The Axe (1949), and Poems 1949–1957 (1957). His imagination was caught by the figure of the navigator, either Polynesian or European, where journeyings connected New Zealand to the greater world. He dwells, too, on the way in which discovery at a point of time postulates a future in part determined by world history at that point. The other determinant is the thing discovered, the island, the colony, the island nation. From discovery stems colonisation, and from this a prolonged tension between the settlers and the land. The complex inadequacy and grief of a people in a land where they remain alien is a theme in much of Curnow's earlier verse, much of Brasch's, and of the long essays of M. H. Holcroft (collected under the title Discovered Isles in 1951), essays which take the first steps towards a critical evaluation of the verse of these two watershed decades.

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